Monday, January 07, 2019

Christmas Past

They've all gone, every last one of them, now Christmas is over. The books that until last week were piled up in library displays, filled every bookshop window and featured prominently in Amazon promotions, selling no doubt in their thousands – they've disappeared. Yes, they're the books with 'Christmas' in the title.

You have endless choice. A random sample from Amazon: Hope's Cornish Christmas; Christmas at Mistletoe Cottage (or at Snowdrop Cottage – both are available); Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe; Snowflakes and Mistletoe at the Inglenook Inn...

There are plenty of crime novels too: A Murder for Christmas; Mistletoe and Murder, and – my favorite title – Death by Eggnog. Or if you prefer something with a sharper edge, Christmas is Murder, a collection of stories edited by Val McDermid.

What I wonder is, where do they all go now? Do people only read books about Christmas at Christmas time? Do the bookshops pack them away in cupboards ready to be brought out again when December rolls round? I've sometimes noticed one on a library shelf but it feels odd to read it at a different time of year.

I've never written one. I've written a couple of books, though, which involve extreme weather conditions – deep snow, fog, a storm – and I've found it needs a lot of concentration to get into the zone when dark and dreadful things are supposed to be happening but outside the sun is shining and birds are chirping away in that irritatingly cheerful way they have.

I can't exactly wait to write until the weather is appropriately obliging and obviously a Christmas book can't be written in those weeks when Christmas spirit is everywhere and you can't do your grocery shop without hearing “White Christmas” and “Santa Baby”.

Magazines, of course, famously produce their December editions in July so I suppose you could have yourself a merry little Christmas with tinsel and a fake tree any time you wanted, but of course the book would really have to capture the weird, febrile excitement of that time of year. If you've written a Christmas book I'd love to know your technique.

It was Dr Johnson's' dictum that no one but a blockhead would ever write for anything except money, and it would interest me too to know how the economics stack up, whether the flood of purchases at Christmas time makes up for the lack of sales during the rest of the year. So far, at least, I haven't felt tempted to risk it.


Jean Steffens said...

I have to say I read Christmas titles during the holiday season. Not sure why. Maybe to get into the season.


Rick Blechta said...

When I was doing graphic design as my main gig, I was thoroughly sick of Christmas before summer had barely arrived. Since much of the client base was magazine subscription ads, it was somewhat understandable, but there were other clients who wanted their “ducks in a row” and requested Christmas ads during the summer, after which would be innumerable changes, sometimes stretching into September!

I like the holiday season as much as most, but it certainly dampened my spirit for a number of years when that time of year actually rolled around.

Vicki Delany said...

You forgot me! I have titles such as We Wish You A Murderous Christmas. Yes, my Year-Round-Christmas series sells mostly in November/December, but sales trickle in all year. Next year's book is Silent Night Deadly Night and the powers that be at Penguin have decided to release it in August. I'm still wondering why.